For boygenius, the indie-rock supergroup with a penchant for neckties and introspective songs, this fall has held the kind of firsts that prove a rock band has turned into a phenomenon: its first arena show at a Madison Square Garden packed with fans chanting every lyric, its first performance at the Hollywood Bowl, and soon, its first feature on “Saturday Night Live.”
On Friday, there was another first — and second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth — with boygenius’s debut Grammy nominations as a band, a haul that included nods for two of the biggest contests: record of the year (for the ethereal and anthemic “Not Strong Enough”) and album of the year (for “The Record”).
The recognition has capped off a whirlwind period for Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, successful indie performers in their own right who turned an idea for a one-off collaboration in 2018 into a group that has captured the hearts of Gen Z fans and beyond, establishing a reputation for free-spirited onstage antics and the kind of wholesome bond not usually associated with touring rock stars.
On a Friday afternoon video call, the trio discussed their nominations, songwriting and the future of their music from the basement of a New York City hotel where they were preparing for “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, a rack full of possible costume choices lined up behind them. It was in that hotel basement that they heard the good news, then, as Baker put it, “did a little screaming, hugging, jumping up and down,” before the texts started flowing — including notes from Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish, who also received six nominations each.
“It’s like when kids cry on Christmas morning because I do feel so overwhelmed that I could just go to sleep,” Baker said.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
This has been a remarkable year of firsts for you. Has it changed your relationship to the album, playing in these large arenas?
BAKER Not in a corny way you guys, but that’s the metric I return to. My relationship to it has stayed static, by making something that we preserved.
BRIDGERS And it’s grown — I think of “True Blue” now as a kind of communal experience because that’s kind of the first moment in the set where the audience acts the same way every night. Lucy and I have pretty low voices and when people sing “True Blue,” they sing the octave up which is really funny.
DACUS If I was doing “True Blue” for karaoke I would do the same thing.
What about your relationships with each other? You’ve been around the world together at this point, in high-pressure situations — what’s different about your friendship?
BAKER I’m proud of us. I think our communication has gotten better. We set out with a clear list of priorities in mind, and our excitement about the music and our genuine relationship with each other was at the top. That has stayed intact because we kept it as a priority. It’s being spoken into the project every day.
BRIDGERS When you guys hit me up to have dinner the other night before we actually had to go into work, seeing you not at work first, I was like, this is so nice. We just got to talk about people and hang out.
DACUS I’m not sick of you guys.
Why do you think “Not Strong Enough” rose to the surface for the Grammys? You’ve talked about how it’s about mental illness, about self-hatred — is it the darkness that connected with audiences?
DACUS I think the four-on-the-floor kick pattern connected with audiences. For me writing above everything is important, but you could switch out the lyrics of the song and I think it would be just as much fun.
BRIDGERS I was like, we need a song that could be played on the radio, can we make one that’s like, really fun? And you guys understood the assignment.
DACUS But “Not Strong Enough” is not a typical radio song, so it both fails the assignment but weirdly succeeded because it’s on the radio. Finneas said this too, it’s like you trying to copy your idols and failing is who you are. Something like that.
BAKER And also “fun” is deep. Like you could retroactively dissertation explain what is just implicitly communicated by us having fun and writing lyrics in the way that we do. We put a breakdown in “Not Strong Enough” because it rocks; I want to have a good time!
Has this past year made you want to dig deeper into boygenius or are you feeling like it’s time to return to your independent careers?
DACUS We decided before it all started what the limits were, and that has allowed us to dig the deepest that we were willing to up until this point. We’ve put all of our energy into this knowing that there’s kind of a cap on this era of boygenius. We’re all going to make our own solo records after this — that’s fair to say, probably.
BRIDGERS Or try.
So you have six nominations as a band, but Phoebe has one extra (for a collaboration with SZA, “Ghost in the Machine”). Are you lording it over the other two?
BRIDGERS All day. No, but it was the first one announced and Lucy was like, it would be so funny if we were all watching and it was only that. But I’m so proud of SZA.
DACUS [whispers Bridgers’s section of “Ghost in the Machine”] I’ve had it stuck in my head all day.
This year’s nominees are led by women — did that stick out at you at all watching it?
BRIDGERS I noticed a lot of music I love.
DACUS We’re excited for more pals to be getting recognized and the fact that we’re women isn’t the cool part — the music is the cool part.
Have you been batting around any ideas yet for a Grammys performance? Nirvana suits?
DACUS I haven’t thought about this at all because I did not think it was going to happen, so now it just opens up a whole world of having to think about things.